Football: Ipswich draw last comfort

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The Independent Online
Blackburn Rovers 0

Ipswich Town 0

Attendance: 20,633

IPSWICH showed little sign of being capable of saving themselves and barely deserved the happy accident of a last-minute goal 200 miles away that rescued them from relegation to the First Division.

On this performance the Premiership would not have missed Ipswich, for whom the term pedestrian carried far too many racy connotations for much of this match.

They were lucky to meet a Blackburn team who looked as though they had done their work for the season and were ready to relax amid the blue- and-white balloons and confetti with which their fans were celebrating second place in the Premiership and an invitation to the European party.

Injuries forced Rovers into fielding a line-up with a preponderance of defenders shoe- horned into other roles, or they would surely have taken advantage of Ipswich's limitations, obvious since the turn of the year. As it was, Alan Shearer had one of his most anonymous games of the campaign, although Craig Forrest did have to fingertip one header over the bar in the second half.

Blackburn's best chances fell to Jason Wilcox and Shearer's stand-in striking partner, Ian Pearce, neither of whom could do a great deal with them, while Colin Hendry had one effort cleared off the line by Mick Stockwell. Ipswich, goaded into greater urgency by the way other matches were going, sparked into life after the interval.

Stockwell had a run at goal, Ian Marshall was denied by Tim Flowers's feet after Graeme Le Saux had given the ball away and Chris Kiwomya shot just over the bar. In the latter stages, Ipswich again flirted with the idea of a winner that would have put them safe, regardless of results elsewhere.

David Linighan had a strong downward header pushed away by Flowers and Marshall's spectacular overhead kick skimmed the crossbar. But this was a mediocre display and it was fitting that Ipswich should owe their survival to dramatic events elsewhere.

At the final whistle, the players who knew the broader picture passed on the good news and Ipswich's impromptu celebrations were every bit as heartfelt as the lap of honour Blackburn had stage-managed for after the game.

Mick McGiven, a relieved Ipswich manager, said he knew they had escaped, even if he was not sure how, when he saw the East Anglian supporters standing up and cheering in the last moments. 'It was in our own hands and we've come to the side that finished second in the Premiership and got a draw,' he said.

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